Snail TaleBy Kathy Kranking
Here in the tropical island nation of Cuba, rare snails “decorate” trees and shrubs with their colorful shells.
Gliding their way along leaves and branches, Cuban painted snails don’t know how pretty they are, of course. But some people think these snails, with their shiny, swirly shells, are the most beautiful snails in the world.
Painted snails live on the eastern coast of Cuba (see map) and no place else on Earth. Oozing trails of slime, they slide along as they eat up mosses and lichens (LYE-kens). Life seems pretty good—but this snail tale has a twist.
The Rest of the Story
Sadly, good looks have been bad luck for painted snails. People have collected so many of them for their beautiful shells that the snails are now endangered. Even though it’s against the law to collect the snails’ shells, people still do it illegally. They sell the shells, sometimes making them into jewelry. Painted snail shells are also smuggled out of Cuba to sell in other parts of the world.
The snails face other troubles, too. The land where they live is often cleared to plant crops. And climate change can harm the plants the snails live on.
But the good news is that many people are trying to help painted snails. Scientists are studying the snails to learn how to protect them. They’re trying to raise the snails in captivity so they can release them back into the wild.
Local kids are helping, too! Some have been painting ceramic snail shells to look like painted snails. They hope people would rather buy these bigger shells than the real shells of the endangered snails. Also, scientists are working to teach the local people about the snails and how rare they are. They hope that the more people learn about the snails, the more they will want to help protect them. With everyone working together, maybe this snail tale can have a happy ending.